Monday, January 31, 2005

Carphone Warehouse insurance - "Lifeline"

I'm going to write more on this to explain later, but for now just take my word for it that my experience with them has been so bad that I would heartily recommend you don't use them. They've been bad in most of the ways that you can be when I've dealt with them. Not actually evil, just a complete lack of good service or, in some ways, competence. Even for things that are realllly trivial to get right. Like your address (which should be picked up straight from the details for the contract which I signed, and vodaphone/cpw get right every month on my bill without problem)....

I would suggest you find someone else if you're about to go / are with them. I'm cancelling my policy just as soon as physically possible, I don't mind paying a few quid more per month with another company. Or even going insurance-less for a while (not so advisable when you're inside the minimum contract terms unless the phone's not worth much).

Story to come...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Daily Source Code podcast title

I had thought of writing a "why?" post about the title of Adam Curry's daily source code; ok, it's daily but I can't see what the source code refers to.. He's not a programmer, it's not (mostly) about programs. If you can call podcasts a "source" then I suppose it means something, but you're stretching it a little.

But this guy does podcast reviews and said it for me. I have my own opinion on Adam's program, and the fact that I keep up with it most if not every day probably tells you enough. He can still be pretty stupid sometimes (can't we all) but for some reason I still keep coming back 'cos he's got the character (and ego?) to keep it interesting. Plus his broadcasting experience (which most other podcasters don't have) that helps to pull it off. It feels more professional (the pro-quality equipment helps there, if only we could all afford it). Even if you're thinking "oh my god" sometimes to what he's saying.

Friday, January 14, 2005

My (well, it was..) Spectrum Webring

I used to be a big Spectrumite, Speccy fan, or whatever you want to call anyone still playing about with the Sinclair Spectrum computers from the 1980s. I actually came to them quite late, my first one arrived one Christmas ('88?) after I'd begged and begged my parents (what a pain I must have been) for one.

I programmed them, played games on them long past the time any new ones were being released (god there were a lot of classics; some far more playable and more fun than a lot of games out now, just don't expect the same high resolution graphics and sound), and got involved in the "scene" - in particular with Demo's, going to shows and trying to write assembly language to push the machine to it's limits. Trying to show off what I could do with it. I marvelled at colours that shouldn't be there, sound samples stretching the poor sound chip way beyond any quoted abilities, and had many friends through it. Most of the rest of my website is all about Spectrums and my work with them, or about other people/groups in the 'scene'. I even wrote a 47kHz (I think?) sample player - limited to 4-bit output (in theory 5-ish the absolute maximum) only by the hardware.

There were many websites growing up covering all aspects - demos, games, technical, sounds, news, hardware,... I decided there was a need for a webring to link them and help the lesser known ones get an audience. So I created one using That was back in '98 if I remember rightly, and it was fun and gave me a good feeling administrating and keeping things in good order. But in recent years my motivation for Speccy stuff has waned (a crashed PC hard drive with my latest works on didn't help). The webring got taken over by someone else after I neglected it for too long, and I no longer have any real contact with any of my old friends from the scene.

But now, again, the webring has been left unadministered for a while and I get a mail from the system asking if I'd like to volunteer to look after it. To be honest I don't think it would be in the member's best interests for me to take it back, but I would like to hear from anyone with some spare time, and - more importantly, the inspiration/commitment to look after it regularly. It doesn't need a massive amount of work - say 30mins max every week or two depending on how much is going on, although you can put more effort into it than that if you want to do a really good job with writing to people, doing a newsletter every now and then like I used to, and explaining things / helping other ring sites or new members out.

Volunteers sign up via to adopt it. All I'd advise is that you have some interest and knowledge of Sinclair Spectrums and website design, maybe read the comp.sys.sinclair (usenet) newsgroup occasionally, and stick to a consistent and sensible criteria for accepting new sites / keeping the ring full of working sites. You can temporarily disable ones that haven't been working for a while (ignore temporary day-or-two downtime or web server temporary problems), make sure any new sites added actually have some worthwhile content that's not just duplicated elsewhere (ie. ripped from another site without any point) and make sure their links work to previous/next sites when you visit sites.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Beware Tsunami Earthquake appeal fraudsters

Oh my god.. I can't believe anyone would do this.

Just seen an article on the BBC newsfeed that there are fake donation email scams going round... That defies belief. In the wake (sorry...) of such a big disaster there are people willing to use people's compassion and generosity to make money. I myself actually received something like that today via email, which I deleted without thought as I usually would for any spam-like mail. I wouldn't make a donation by any way I wasn't sure was honest. I'd also want a very high percentage, or all, of the money passed on to the people who need it and the people caring for those injured, suffering loss, or bereaved in the disaster.

BBC News article

As an addendum, you can donate with confidence over the counter at most banks, a few trusted websites, via phone (there's a TV ad around listing it and the website - www.dec... something), and at any Post Office free of charge (and they take debit cards now too).

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Goodbye hifi, hello iPod?

You can ditch all your CDs, cassettes, vinyl. You can also ditch your stereo except for the speakers.

The above is from a web forum post I was following (spelling corrected), and the author or forum specifics aren't important but the point is, that's not where we should be.

Playing records is such a physical thing, the odd crackle almost enhances the experience. It adds character and memories of a time when that was all there was for listening to recorded sound. MP3's also aren't quite the same quality as CDs or uncompressed good quality sound, but that's not what my point is about.

Going, Going, Gone Postal

I've finished reading Going Postal by Terry Pratchett and I enjoyed it. Hurrah! It's the first book I've started and actually finished reading in quite a long time. We're talking a few years here...

As I noted before, it's quite politically oriented and fairly satirical but an ok read. Nowhere near as funny as any of his early books; in fact there wasn't a single moment I burst out laughing. His early books can do that though. Don't get me wrong, there's humour, and silly stuff, but not as much as I was expecting. It's all based in Discworld still and you get references to well-known entities from that universe but I don't think anyone would really suffer by coming to it devoid of any discworld knowledge.By the way, is that a capital D on discworld?

I'm back in the mood for reading more now, and looking back through the book list inside the cover there's a lot of Pratchett's I haven't read. I borrowed the early ones from my brother who happens to have all the earlier books, but I don't know if he has so many of the recent ones.